CDT, Ultra-Style - Page 2
Sitting atop Grays Peak.
Four days prior, we left Cumbres Pass in Southern Colorado at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, 187 miles and five and a half days from Spring Creek Pass. At a glance, the section is remote, rugged and involves cross-country navigation. To cap it off, the section ranges between 11,000 and 13,000 feet. I was slightly concerned but still confident, as it was just one section of our entire thru-hike of the CDT. Still, the area deserved a healthy dose of respect.
The first three and a half days were humbling.
Over the course of high, exposed terrain, we dealt with headaches and nausea, difficulty in route finding, pop-up hailstorms and thunderstorms, and exhausting climbs and descents. We managed to hike 13 miles that first half day, then 30, 35 and 29 miles for the next three days. While the numbers were something to be proud of, they left us with 80 miles to cover in less than two days.
As we lay in the tent on Wednesday evening, our egos deflated, we weighed the pros and cons of not showing up on time. Our friends knew what kind of hikers we were but they also knew this area, so we guessed they would call Search and Rescue if we didn’t show. Since we were only down, not yet defeated, we came up with a plan.
We would kick it into gear, ultra-style.
The plan was to go straight through the next 80 miles. In our favor was the fact that we’d soon share tread with the Colorado Trail, a well-defined trail from Denver to Durango.
On Thursday morning, we got moving quickly, vowing to each other that with the exception of snack breaks, we wouldn’t stop until Spring Creek Pass.
“Ultra training,” we said to each other at the start.
The day started over lumpy grass, leading us over small, yet tiring, dips in the terrain. In the afternoon the trail obliged with manageable climbs and a clear afternoon for the 2,000-foot climb up to The Window, a missing tooth in the mountains. Just before dark, we ate a dinner of dehydrated refried beans out of a peanut-butter jar, a daily staple of our stove-less cooking system.
Mentally and physically, we felt strong yet doubtful. While we were committed to the task, we’d never pulled an all-nighter on previous hikes, only in ultras with aid stations and course markings. Complete darkness surrounded us as we took our last bites of dinner and suited up in wind gear and headlamps to prepare for the chilly evening.